Jony Ive, Designer Who Made Apple Look Like Apple, Is Leaving to Start a Firm

SAN FRANCISCO — Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer and one of the most influential executives in the history of the Silicon Valley giant, is leaving the company.

Mr. Ive will depart this year to start his own design company, Apple said on Thursday. Through his new firm, LoveFrom, Mr. Ive will continue to work on a wide range of Apple products, the company said.

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world, and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Mr. Ive, who has worked at Apple for nearly three decades, was responsible for the look and feel of many iconic Apple products, including the iPhone and the iMac. He also helped design Apple’s new headquarters, a futuristic, flying-saucerlike glass building that has become one of the most distinctive structures in Silicon Valley.

Apple’s design team will now be led by Evans Hankey, an industrial designer at the company, and Alan Dye, previously a creative director at Apple. They will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, who oversaw the creation of the Apple Watch.

Apple’s share price was down more than 1 percent in after-hours trading after Mr. Ive’s departure was announced.

Apple has struggled in recent quarters with slumping iPhone sales and a significant drop in revenue across the China region. In April, when Apple last reported its quarterly financial results, profit dropped 16.4 from the same quarter a year earlier, and iPhone sales dropped 17.3 percent.

Revenue from online services, including Apple’s App Store, was on the rise. But the hardware business that defined Apple — and the career of Mr. Ive — has slowed. The Apple Watch has been a modest success, but it has not captured the market or the popular imagination in the way that the iPhone and the iMac did when they were released.

Apple did not make Mr. Ive available for comment Thursday evening.

Born and raised outside London, Mr. Ive joined Apple in 1992, when the company was nearing its lowest ebb. One of his first projects was the Apple Newton, an early hand-held computer that, while innovative, was bulky and too expensive to find a mainstream audience. It was considered a bust.

But Mr. Ive became a key player in the company’s revival after its founder Steve Jobs returned in 1997.

Mr. Jobs and Mr. Ive often met for lunch, and at the end of each day, the chief executive would visit Mr. Ive’s Apple design studio, according Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs.”

“The difference that Jony has made, not only at Apple but in the world, is huge,” Mr. Jobs told Mr. Isaacson. “He understands what we do at out core better than anyone.”

As the head of Apple’s industrial design team, Mr. Ive helped shape the original iMac, a clear plastic bubble of a personal computer that marked a return to form for the company.

After the iMac, he played a vital role in Apple’s breakout products. From the iPod music player to the iPhone to the iPad tablet, Apple redefined personal computing over the next decade or so and became one of the most profitable and valuable companies in the world.

Industrial design — how the look, feel and behavior of a product are defined by its creators — has long been a key part of the Apple ethos.

“This is part of Steve’s legacy,” Mr. Ive told The New York Times in an interview in 2014. “Deep in the culture of Apple is this sense and understanding of design, developing and making. Form and the material and process — they are beautifully intertwined — completely connected.”

In 2012, after the success of the iPad, Mr. Ive was knighted in Britain. And his voice was a staple of Apple television ads, as he deconstructed the Apple design philosophy for the masses.

This philosophy extended to the Apple Park, the company’s $5 billion campus in Cupertino, Calif. Before it opened to employees in 2017, Mr. Ive spent a significant portion of his time working on the new headquarters.

In the years since, he has stepped back from his daily role at the company and spent more time on outside projects, including a Christmas tree for the historic Claridge’s hotel in London.

Though he and Mr. Jobs came to represent the company’s unique approach to design, Mr. Ive always made a point of saying he was just one piece in the puzzle. “Innovation at Apple has always been a team game,” he told The Times.

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